What Is Jicama and What Are the Health Benefits?
This sweet, crunchy vegetable is great for snacks, salads, and slaws. Here's what you need to know about buying, eating, and storing jicama.
When you find yourself in a little bit of a healthy eating rut, trying new-to-you foods can be a great way to snap out of it. If you're a fan of sweet, crunchy veggies like carrots and turnips, jicama is probably right up your alley. Here's everything you need to know about jicama, how it tastes and how to cook with it. Plus, we'll give you the lowdown on jicama nutrition and its health benefits.
What Is Jicama?
Pictured recipe: Jicama Radish Slaw
Native to Mexico and popular in Central American cuisine, jicama is a nutrient-dense root vegetable that starchy like a potato but comes from the bean family. It's available in most mainstream supermarkets–it's sometimes found near hot peppers and cactus paddles in the produce section.
How to Cook Jicama
Pictured recipe: Chili-Lime Jicama
Sometimes called the Mexican turnip or Mexican potato, raw jicama's white flesh is slightly sweet and crunchy similar to a water chestnut. Though some people like to use it when they're stir frying vegetables, jicama is typically eaten raw in slaws and fruit salad.
"Jicama reminds me of an apple when it comes to its crunchy and juicy texture and flavor," says Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LDN, a Miami-based dietitian. "But I could also compare it to the feel and texture of potato." It's best served raw, cut into sticks or slices. You'll need to cut off the thick brown skin using a sharp knife (a vegetable peeler likely won't cut deep enough) before you chop the white, crunchy flesh. Consider substituting it for carrots and celery, using it to dip into hummus or peanut butter or adding thin slices to salads for some additional crunch.
"I like to add it to a pico de gallo or salsa: all you need is chopped tomatoes, onions, jicama, cilantro, lemon, a little bit of salt and pepper," Jimenez says. "I also put some papaya, mango or pineapple for additional taste."
Pictured Recipe: Cilantro-Jalapeño Shrimp with Mango-Jicama Salad
Jicama is high in important vitamins and minerals, Jimenez says. One cup packs 20 milligrams of vitamin C (more than 25 percent of what an adult woman needs in a day), which is essential for collagen production and linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, Jimenez says. "Antioxidants help us fight the damage caused by free radicals," she says, which ultimately protects our DNA.
How to Store Jicama
Pictured recipe: Chopped Jicama Salad
Store it on the counter before you cut it, and in the refrigerator, once it's cut. Whole, uncut jicama will stay fresh in a cool, dry place in your pantry for two to three weeks. That said, if you buy a jicama that was chilled at the grocery store, you'll need to store it in the fridge. If you use half a jicama, you can wrap the remaining half tightly in plastic and store it in the fridge for a few days. Once you've sliced it, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice will help it stay fresh if you're planning on storing it for a few days.